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Official Thread Section 3.2 Recognize Destructive Behaviors

Discussion in 'Alan Gordon TMS Recovery Program' started by Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021), Jun 9, 2014.

  1. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    This is the official thread for Section 3.2 of the TMS Recovery Program donated by Alan Gordon of the Pain Psychology Center (PPC). This section is entitled "Recognize Destructive Behaviors." Neither Alan nor the PPC necessarily endorses this thread or any of the viewpoints presented in it.

    Please keep these official threads on topic and put your best thoughts down, as these threads will be read by many people. All posts in this thread should all relate to section 3.2 of the TMS Recovery Program:

    In section 3.2, Alan writes the following:
    Recognize Destructive Behaviors

    In many cases, people aren’t even aware that they’re treating themselves in an abusive or neglectful way.

    Look at Brandon. When I ask him about ways he may be treating himself poorly, he responds, “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs,” oblivious to the fact that that what he’s doing to himself psychologically could be just as damaging.

    In these cases, recognizing and identifying the destructive behaviors is essential.

    Let’s start off with abuse. There are three primary ways that people psychologically abuse themselves.

    The first is criticism. People beat themselves up all the time. Some of the more general messages might be, "You're worthless" or "What's wrong with you?" More specific (and more subtle) examples might be, “How could you have screwed up that presentation?” or “You’re not talking enough, you’re so boring.”

    These messages are toxic. Would you talk to someone you care about this way? Why would you treat yourself worse than a loved one?

    Listen to an example of self-criticism

    Click here to download the mp3 audio

    Another way people abuse themselves is by putting pressure on themselves: “You’re not working hard enough,” “You’re not making enough money,” “You need to lose more weight.”

    When you put pressure on yourself, it carries the underlying message of, “You have to do this or else…” You may not be saying these words, but that’s how our primitive minds interpret this pressure.

    It’s like having a drill sergeant in your head.

    A lot of clients I’ve worked with feel like the pressure is their friend. “If I didn’t put pressure on myself, I wouldn’t get anything done. I’d just lay around all day in my sweat pants eating bon bons. The pressure helps me accomplish things.”

    In reality, the opposite is often true. Pressure can be a motivation killer. Remember how much more enjoyable it was reading a book for fun than when it was assigned for homework? Discipline can exist without pressure. You can be free to work on things with a sense of joy, instead of a sense of a heaviness. Some clients have told me that when they stop putting so much pressure on themselves, they actually become more productive.

    Listen to an example of pressure

    Click here to download the mp3 audio

    Finally, one of the most common ways people abuse themselves is with fear. “What if I don't get better?” “What if the pain is structurally caused?” “What if I never get married?” “What if no one likes my cooking?”

    This is like having the boogeyman in your head. And our primitive minds can’t tell the difference between a physical threat (“There’s a tiger behind that bush”) and a psychological threat (“What if I fail my midterm?”) So these fear thoughts throw us into a state of fight-or-flight.

    Listen to an example of fear

    Click here to download the mp3 audio

    Abusing yourself in these ways can have consequences. Just as a child might rebel if treated abusively or neglectfully, the body can rebel as well in the form of pain, anxiety, or depression.

    The following exercise might help you better identify some of these destructive thoughts: Exercise in Recognizing Destructive Behaviors

    If we give a few minutes of thought to it, we can all find examples to recognize our destructive behavior that may very likely cause us TMS pain. We may question our self-worth, pressure ourselves into feeling we botched something or could have done better, and worry ourselves into a state of anxiety and fear. None of us is perfect and we shouldn’t expect to be. Most of us do our best, and what more than that should we expect of ourselves?

    I admit to being guilty of all three of the self-abuse categories in Recognize Destructive Behaviors.
    1. Criticism. I write books. When one is published I think that I could have done better. I think I’ve written some good ones, but never got famous or rich because of any or all of them. But when I think I haven’t “made it” as a writer, I remind myself that fame and fortune was never my goal in writing. My goal was and still is, to write books that in some way can help people, and believe I have. Great actors and actresses, from Laurence Olivier to Bette Davis, have said they always thought they could have done better in most of their movies. The thing is, instead of criticizing ourselves for not doing better, we should praise ourselves for doing what we did. If we made a mistake in something, keep in mind that we tried and did our best. And we can learn from our mistakes, so we don’t let them happen again.

    2. Pressuring ourselves. I broke from the traditional mold of everyone in my family going to work for a big company after high school. I went to college and later became a fulltime freelance writer. I put a lot of pressure on myself writing books that brought in uncertain income. But I’ve thought about the pressure I gave myself and then remember one of my best friends. He had a lot of potential in any field he might have chosen, but he went to college to study food management and became manager of a food chain store. Nothing wrong in that, but I thought he could have done more with his life. Same with another friend who said he wanted to be a television anchorman, and he had the voice and good looks for it, but he never tried, instead he became a real estate lawyer. Nice secure job, but whatever happened to his ambition? Some of us can pressure ourselves and others don’t pressure themselves at all, but they can get what also can cause TMS: lack of self-respect from not challenging themselves enough. Those friends who did not challenge themselves enough did not have to pursue more challenging careers fulltime; they could have spent evenings or weekends being more creative. They wanted to, but never tried. They never pressured themselves, and that can cause TMS because of regret: a life not fully lived. Some pressure can be a good thing, but another friend pressures himself to be both rich and famous by writing important, meaningful books. He doesn’t have a monkey on his back, he has a full-grown gorilla, and gives himself, his wife, and everyone who works for him TMS.

    3. Fear. One of the questions this asks is “What if I don’t get married.” I never married, and have never regretted it. I became godfather to six of my relatives’ and friends’ kids, also became like a surrogate father to quite a few others, and helped several couples to remain in their marriage. I do recognize self-destructive behavior in matters or health, worrying a hangnail into losing an arm, or fearing financial ruin in the future, or fearing what comes after the last breath the Lord allows me. I need to have more positive confidence in my future and, for sure, in the Lord.
    Anne Walker, cirrusnarea and Colly like this.
  2. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    Most suffering is caused by the gap between what is and what "should be."

    "I should be talking to more people at this party," "I should do a better job of not caring when my pain flares up," "I should have more facebook friends."

    When I was trying to overcome my own TMS pain, I dedicated myself one Sunday to doing everything that I was "supposed" to do. I meditated for 6 hours, I stood up to the inner bully every time he arose, I spent hours telling my inner child he was safe, I was constantly aware of what feelings were coming up.

    And at the end of the day, my pain was WORSE. I couldn't believe it! Hadn't I done everything right?

    Only in retrospect did I realize that the entire day had a subtle undercurrent of pressure. Pressure, in my experience, is one of the primary causes of TMS pain. And it's so sneaky. It could seem like you're doing everything right, but if your actions are fused with a sense of pressure, you're not really free.

    Later, when the pain would arise, I gently checked in to see if I knew what I was feeling (usually, I didn't) and said to myself, "Eh, it'll pass" and went back to what I was doing. It was so nice not to need to get rid of the pain! Eventually it faded because I wasn't fueling it with pressure and fear.

    The Buddha was a spiritual leader, but he was also the first psychologist. Nonresistance, sitting with what is, be it rage, sadness, or even physical pain, without needing it to be something different, is the ultimate form of psychological health.
  3. David B

    David B Well known member

    Learning to recognize and deal with negative self-talk is the most impactful tool I learned during the healing process. I use it daily. Listening several times to the audio recordings in this section brought me to tears because: 1. I completely saw myself in the people Alan was talking with; 2. Alan has such a great way of helping people see what they are doing to themselves and seeing they aren't alone; 3. Alan helped me realized how long I had been my own worst critic instead of my best friend and that it was time to fight the negative self talk.

    Before my recovery process I knew I was critical of myself but I didn't realize how critical I was and how constant it was. How often should statements were driving my assessment of myself and my self-talk.

    Alan's program and "Feeling Good" by David Burns (I highly recommend reading it) helped me learn to separate from negative self talk and question what is going on when it happens. Why is it happening? How to handle the parts that were factually correct in a way that allowed me be ok with the fact that I'm not perfect. Reminding myself that I like me just the way I am and this voice, while in me, isn't me.

    The interesting part of this practicing this skill is that after awhile not only am I able to catch this voice earlier before I sink to deeply into it but the voice is quieter, maybe less present and less frequent.

    This is one of the reasons why I can honestly say I wouldnt wish to go through my TMS experience again but Im not unhappy it happened. In many ways TMS was the best thing to ever happen to me. I am finally getting to really know me and have the internal awareness I wanted but could never seem to achieve.
  4. Colly

    Colly Beloved Grand Eagle

    When I took four weeks off work due to RSI in 2012, it hadn't occurred to me that my self-imposed pressure was causing my symptoms. Once I started my TMS healing journey I realised it wasn't the demanding client and the impossible deadlines; it was my own inner bully creating this pressure for me to achieve. I realise now that nobody was holding a gun to my head except me. Now in a new and stressful project, I'm aware of moment-to-moment thoughts, and using affirmations to get me through stressful days. So far so good!

    Through TMS healing, I also became aware of other destructive behaviors I had in the past. During my singing days, I desperately wanted recognition for my singing, and would swot up on entire scores prior to rehearsal so that my singing would be noticed. This came from my desire to please my father (also a classical singer), who never showed his appreciation. I have forgiven myself and him, and am cautious of not repeating this behavior now in other areas.

    Dr Emmett Miller's book "Deep Healing" and audios such as "I am" have helped me enormously. During periods of recovery I often felt ashamed of behavior I had exhibited. Dr Miller's "Rewriting the script" tool helped me overcome this. He writes:

    "As you look at a scene from your past, view yourself as you would watch an actor on a screen. Now rewind that scene, but this time rewrite your script… imagining how it would look to see yourself responding to the situation with behavior that is more acceptable to you. Relive this scene now… responding in the way you want to respond…and enjoy feeling in charge of the situation. You feel good about your new behavior… and how people around you may be reacting to it. You feel comfortable and satisfied as you handle things just the way you would like…let this scene complete itself now…and as you leave it, let yourself feel really good about the way you handled it."

    This rewriting the script tool has given me the courage to reach out to my father after 24 years of avoiding him. This simple technique that has had a profound effect on my life and TMS recovery.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2014
  5. Gigalos

    Gigalos Beloved Grand Eagle

    I realize I still put pressure on myself during days off. "So you have a couple of days off and now you will @#$% enjoy them!! You have to go to the beach and get a tan, have walks in nature, meet people and most important, don't waste your time doing nothing!!". Of course this gives more stress than relaxation. I think it should be "So you have a couple of days off and you are allowed to do absolutely nothing!! If you feel like doing something, just do it, if you don't, that's all right too.... and when it is over, do not regret the things you didn't do". I guess there is a strong cultural definition of what we have to do with our days off. "What? Didn't you book a flight to some subtropical country? Oh my... So what have you done?? Nothing??? .....What a waste of time... ".
    Fabi, Starschild, cirrusnarea and 4 others like this.
  6. Msunn

    Msunn Well known member

    I really relate to a lot of what has already been posted. In my case I think perfectionism has driven a lot of this inner dialogue.

    I've been very perfectionistic with music, having impossible standards to meet and being hard on myself. Prior to developing TMS I felt very blocked creatively. I've been working on a CD for a couple of years now that I had a very hard time finishing. The funny thing is the CD should be pretty low pressure. It's just a collection of cover tunes I play on my gigs, but somehow my inner critic made it into my life's defining work:)

    I've looked at this as one of my core issues with TMS and just today took all the information for the CD to a graphic artist so it will be actually finished soon YAY!! I'm trying to get back to a childlike joy in creating and playing music. I know that inner voice goes back to childhood where I got very little approval, but that demanding perfectionism is so stifling. I had one Skype session with Steve O and he said that in one respect TMS is repressed energy. I've been repressing a lot there!

    Of course that type of thinking also creates a lot of pressure.

    I've been involved in the 12 step recovery community for several years and really have had some great insights and progress in other areas of my life but I guess TMS came along to show me where I was still stuck. Thanks TMS, I guess:)

    I've also had earlier anxiety and fear issues that hadn't bothered me for about 5 years prior to TMS but now have also come back around. It seems that as my hands are doing better, anxiety at times is worse, but I just try to see it as another distraction from my mind to keep TMS going.

    Lately I've just been trying to be more gentle, patient, compassionate toward myself. It really helps. It doesn't go well for me when I compare myself to others here and feel I "should" be recovering quicker etc.

    I don't do any of this perfectly and I still have some really good days, and some days where I'm overwhelmed with the whole process, and don't do very well. If I'm trying to let go of perfectionism, which I am, then it has to be alright with me to have ups and downs with the TMS process. I keep working on accepting myself as I am, and letting go of the self criticism.
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2014
  7. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Understanding Dr. Sarno's view of how the superego activates TMS was critical in my accepting the TMS diagnosis, and was a powerful piece in my TMS education, so this section in the Recovery Program is near and dear to my heart.

    I already knew I had a vicious superego (Inner Critic), and as I learned about Dr. Sarno's approach, I immediately connected my inner life with the TMS. I knew there was tremendous pressure on the inner level, conflicts between the coercive parts of me, and the victim parts of me. But how does this cause TMS?

    I learned that this activity enrages the inner child, or Id, or hurts it, or neglects it, and all this is too much to be experienced directly, so TMS is a distraction.

    From Dr. Sarno's The Divided Mind pg 63-64:

    “My own experience with psychosomatic disorders adds still another dimension to the superego's influence: you must not only be moral, you must be a saint. You must be perfect and good. And how does the id react to such imperatives? The pressures we put on ourselves, and the workings of the superego, infuriate the id. All the narcissistic id wants is to gratify its desires for comfort, pleasure and dependency, but instead it is being pressured to be a responsible adult. The result may be emotional pain, sadness, anger and cumulatively, rage...”

    Then these feelings are repressed by the ego functions:

    “My experience with TMS has convinced me that the purpose of this repression is to protect the individual, to prevent the painful, dangerous feelings from coming to consciousness and causing even greater distress.” Ergo TMS is born.

    In my case, I don't believe the perfect (hah, "perfect") self attunement and self care (rather than self-abuse) needs to be achieved to have tremendous relief from pain. I think the key for me is understanding the connection between my personality type (Goodist and Perfectionist) and the TMS activity. When the light bulb went off in my head about how my superego was probably connected to my foot pain---and how, this was a big step forward for me. My life, and my pain sort of made a deep sense!
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2014
  8. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I agree totally with Gigalos. Give our id a rest for a day or two, or even just some breaks for an hour or so
    and enjoy the beauty and peace of the moment.

    Msunn, you're re-learning the childlike love of music. Let go of perfectionism. It could drive me nuts, but
    I've been learning to go with the flow. There are things I want to be able to do but just can't. It ain't in the cards.
    What I can do, I do, and pat myself on the back for it. I'm a man, not Superman. People who think I am, or could be, are not me. They're themselves, projecting their perfectionism onto me. To hell with them. Let them wrestle with the gorilla on their back.
    I will pet the monkey on mine.
    Msunn likes this.
  9. Msunn

    Msunn Well known member

    Thanks for your input Walt. You always have a positive message. I'm really getting how wounding the perfectionism is and just appreciating myself as I am. Many years ago I had a neighbor with a sign on his wall that said, "If you don't do what you want to, who will?" I think I finally understand that.
    Anne Walker and Marian like this.
  10. Marian

    Marian Peer Supporter

    "This is like having the boogeyman in your head. And our primitive minds can’t tell the difference between a physical threat (“There’s a tiger behind that bush”) and a psychological threat (“What if I fail my midterm?”) So these fear thoughts throw us into a state of fight-or-flight."

    For me this has been the most tremendous relief so far in my TMS journey. I'm beginning to see the boogeyman, or feel its approach more and more often without entering into its thought pattern. I see it come up and turn it away. sometimes I get mad at it, sometimes I just tell it no. Other times I am able to laugh at it, because it's so ridiculous.

    And the greatest thing has happened. I find that if I do get entangled in one of these thought patterns, I can catch it and somehow mentally step back from it, or step away from it... sort of leaving the self that is involved with it to dissolve, while I inhabit a self that is free of it.

    In terms of using free time more creatively... I think it's a matter not of pressuring yourself to do this, but of following the breadcrumbs of your own joy. It can be a very gentle or silly-sounding suggestion in your head. Something you want to try but feel embarrassed about, or something that you know will give you pleasure but that has no "productive" use. But if you follow those impulses they can lead you into great relaxation and satisfaction, and that's the goal.
    Msunn and Ellen like this.
  11. Anne Walker

    Anne Walker Beloved Grand Eagle

    "Most of us do our best, and what more than that should we expect of ourselves?"

    It is really good for me to reread this section on destructive behaviors today. I am definitely prone to all three destructive behaviors - self-criticism, pressure, and fear. I also see these behaviors in my children, especially in my 13 year old daughter. She is constantly comparing herself to others and pressuring herself to do more. The other night we went to play games at a friends house who has two teenage sons. One of the boys is about my daughters age and very artistic like she is. The other old boy is a science geek and goes to a special science program at a magnet school. Ruby also loves science and participates in science fairs and does the Science UIL at school. It was clear that both of the brothers were interested in Ruby and eager for her attention throughout the evening. On the way home all Ruby could talk about was the various experiments the older boy was doing at school with bacteria and how she wasn't really doing anything with her life. Its unbelievable to me that this is how she thinks. She is beautiful, skipped 7th grade, an honor student, scored in the top 3% in the country of the 7th graders invited by Duke University to take the SAT, and yet none of the success is ever good enough. She focuses on what she perceives is lacking and amplifies any slight criticism she imagines from others. It is so much easier to recognize these behaviors in others. I feel like I have done a lot of work on becoming aware of when I am criticizing myself, when the internal bully pops up, trying to trust that I am doing the best that I can and accepting my fear. And yet it is so second nature to me that it is very easy for me to slip back. We do not live in a vacuum so negative interactions with others can easily have me spiraling back in to old behaviors. And then I commonly beat myself up for beating myself up, pressure myself to not pressure myself. What is the best way to let go of all of that? In working with my Somatic Experiencing therapist we frequently work on ways to make things more manageable and not have such big expectations that they are unachievable. For instance, yesterday in our session we focused on what I imagined when I thought of myself as being relaxed, or how did I know physically when I was or was not relaxed. I said that I imagined a cat napping in a sunny spot. She thought that this was a wonderful image, and certainly an extremely relaxing one that most people can relate to, but I might be putting too much pressure on myself if that was the goal I was trying to achieve when I thought about relaxation. So what level of relaxation could I experience in my body in this moment and feel good about it? Its such a subtle thing but it makes a big difference. If I am sensing all the spasm in my neck and desiring it to relax like a cat napping in the sun and then feeling disappointed that I am not able to relax, I am only feeding the tension and pressure. I am all for dreaming big, but I do think it is a good idea to examine our expectations and not be hard on ourselves. It is okay to take small steps in the direction we want to go and in the end we may go much further than we ever imagined. Sometimes in developing the awareness of our destructive behaviors it can feel like they are so ingrained in our personalities that it is impossible to change. It just takes practice and a lot of compassion and acceptance for where ever we are at the moment.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2014
  12. Marian

    Marian Peer Supporter

    Anne, I think we need to cultivate the ability to just stop and breath and be gentle with ourselves. Just make space. You are a cherished, sweet being. Any little thing you can do to be kind to yourself is wonderful... no matter how small or insignificant. It's not a test or a chore or something more to add to your to do list.

    When you begin to do those things it's like drops in a bucket. It all adds up. And your daughter will sense your energy and unconsciously begin to follow your example. There's no rush, there's no pressure. Seriously.
    Fabi, Ellen and Anne Walker like this.
  13. cirrusnarea

    cirrusnarea Well known member

    I notice all the same traits in myself. I also have a long list of 'shoulds' and have a hard time enjoying my days off. If I understand Dr. Sarno correctly, these pressures infuriate the Id and our minds create the pain in order to protect us from this unconscious rage that it doesn't believe we can handle. I really enjoy Forest's video on trying too hard to overcome TMS.


    It's been difficult for me to balance how much time to put into it each day. Often I see minimums of 45 minutes a day, etc. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I think putting strict pressures like that on yourself can be counter productive. Like Alan's example of meditating 6 hours a day. Although, I would say that committing to an hour a day or so to work on these things and learn about TMS is actually a great idea, especially in the beginning. But it's just like our personality types to set that strict goal and then beat ourselves up for not achieving it.
  14. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I think only monks in monastaries and Holy Men living on mountain tops can meditate 6 hours a day.
    I think most of us are lucky to be able to devote an hour a day to meditation.
    I wouldn't beat myself up if I even fall short of an hour. We do what we can.
  15. Fabi

    Fabi Well known member

    I find it very hard to feel like that, I do understand it, but my "reaction" is to go to one of the critical thoughts or pressure thoughts. Fear thoughts are there all the time.
  16. Fabi

    Fabi Well known member

    Andy, I am glad that understanding the connection was enough for you! I really am.
    I am having a hard time with my critical thinking you know, I hear it, I know it is there, I understand (I think) what it wants, yet it has me very tightly trapped.
    I wish understanding was enough, but it is not for my body. My body feels the pressure and the tension builds up like in a milisecond, and then the pain , etc.

    I am having a hard time and it is very frustrating
  17. Annasan

    Annasan New Member

    I am also ...the (superego) (Id) conflict I have been literally graphically aware of all my life..so much brain research is being done ...some of the most interesting to me shine a light on our mammal brain and the basic love and goodness of life ...of which we are the most recent development...

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